Thirteen hours. Thirty-eight holes. Another loooong day…
I worked the US Amateur Championship sectional qualifier Moday at Santa Rosa Golf Club yesterday. Last year, however, I could only stay for the first round. This time, like the US Open qualifier at Lake Merced, I was there for the duration.
Rules wise, it wasn’t a terribly busy day. There were a number of typical relief situations from cart paths, ground under repair, and embedded balls, including one double drop, but nothing unusual. Hazards and out of bounds don't come in to play much at SRGC, except for on the outer borders of the course There was one interesting situation where a player was a foot from OB and a yard from a lateral hazard, and chose to take an unplayable lie because he couldn’t take a stance without running afoul of the barbed wire fence demarking the OB. The TO's later had an good discussion about what would have happened if the player had hit a provisional, and the ball was not found, but it wasn't certain whether it went into the hazard or out of bounds.
From a competitive standpoint, the finish was compelling. Three players and two alternates were to be chosen. One player was in at 137 and four at 140, meaning those four would play off for the remaining two spots and the alternate positions. With darkness looming, the players gathered at the first tee.
Four nervous tee shots were hit—Player A snap hooks left, B, C, and D wide right. B is in the fairway, barely. A punched out to the right greenside bunker. D hit a beautiful shot over the trees to about fifteen feet right behind the flagstick. C didn’t have a direct shot because of a bush, and punched to the green short and left. B hit from the fairway to the green about thirty feet left.
Both A and C hit their third shots to about 20 feet short of the hole. B left his first putt five feet short. Advantage D, awaiting his putt for birdie. But wait… A missed, and tapped in for bogey. But Player C, who another official said had made everything, drilled his twenty footer for par. Pressure had changed jerseys.
Player D, who had been starting to look a little jumpy, knocked his birdie putt six feet by, and his par effort lipped all the way around and came out right back at him. He looked at it in shock. Bogey. Player B calmly sank his par putt, so he and C were in the US Am. A and D headed to the ninth hole to continue the playoff and decide who would be first alternate.
They both drilled long tee shots, helped by some serious red-ass factor. A’s approach, off a tricky side-hill lie, was right at the hole, but about 25 feet above the hole. D hit another wonderful approach shot, about eight feet below the hole. It was pretty obvious by now what was going to happen. A calmly dropped his slippery downhill birdie putt. D’s putt didn’t have a chance, and he turned ashen.
Like I said, classic match play. On both holes, Player D looked to have the clear advantage, and came out on the short end. There is a golf maxim in match play—Always expect your opponent to hit a great shot, sink a great putt. If Player D didn’t know that one before, he certainly does now!